Association for the Publication of African Historical Sources

Issue No. 10 - February 1998

History Department, Michigan State University
East Lansing, Michigan 48824
David Robinson

Here is a second edition of our newsletter. We have some new members of APAHS, who will now be incorporated into the electronic mailing list and receive this version. There is no reason why we could not publish this twice a year, given the simplicity of putting things together; the essential thing would be to receive copy via diskette or e-mail, so that I can put it directly in without having to retype. I apologize to David Conrad for not giving the Table of Contents of his first 3 items in the reports below; I had to type his material in, after failing to scan it.

I will ask Jonathan Miran, one of our graduate students who is also working at H-Net here, to put this on the web page for H-Africa. You can find this by going to the H-Net home page: .

I do not have much to report here about manuscripts. See the minutes below for the Columbus discussion. The door is still open at MSU Press, but probably the press will require subsidy to publish. A number of things, as usual, are in the works in Madison. About the Chicago ASA, which I now see is located at the end of October and not around Thanksgiving. We should try to insure 2 events: the business meeting and the roundtable. Ideas for the roundtable? I thought we might try to focus on historical sources and teaching, along the lines of what Lonsdale talks of writing below. What are your ideas and suggestions for participants? Please communicate quickly, the deadline is less than a month away.

MINUTES from November 1997 meeting in Columbus

Notes from David Henige

  • The meeting took the form of a discussion rather than a presentation, although Mack, Kanya-Forstner, and Law did briefly mention their current work. Copies of all three--each from a different publisher and in a different format--were available. Law mentioned that 2, possibly 3, more volumes of the Rawlinson correspondence were in the works.

    Other work in progress that was mentioned included:

    The question of a desiderata list came up. One comment was that it was probably quixotic to find things to be done and then find the right people to do them, that there is no evidence that the process works this way, although there is certainly much to be said for finding right-minded people with their own interests to develop, as a necessary first step.

    The sense of the discussion was that a lot had been done, a surprising amount was still being done, most of it essentially unfunded, and that the opportunities for doing more were all but infinite. This was evidence by a few new names in the audience, but only a few. It was also pointed out that the great majority of work has been done/is being done on west Africa, with little to show for other areas.

    No one had any ideas about further funding possibilities other than NEH on an individual basis, and no one felt this a promising avenue. Publishing sources might also be shrinking. UW ASP stands ready to continue, and possibly increase if necessary, what it has been doing, but MSU and ASA seem less likely despite the claims by the ASA Secretariat of an increased interest in publishing. The British Academy, however, has published Robin's Rawlinson and is expected to publish Selena Winsnes' Romer, and Jan Jansen mentioned that CNRW at Leiden is interested in beginning a new bilingual series, perhaps 2 titles a year for five years. Together with those at Leipzig and Frankfurt, the center of gravity could be shifting to Europe.


    THE BRITISH ACADEMY, Fontes Historiae Africanae, SOURCES OF AFRICAN HISTORY: A Guide for Scholars submitting proposals to the British Committee (September 1997)

    Background. Fontes Historiae Africanae / Sources of African History is an international editing and publication project, initiated in 1962 to organize a series of critical editions of the sources for the history of 'sub-Saharan Africa' (i.e. Africa south of the Mediterranean lands), under the general auspices of the Union AcadJmique Internationale. In 1973 the British Academy established a British Committee to publish volumes in the series. To date, ten volumes have been prepared and published via this Committee and the Academy, representing about half of the total output of the international project.

    The British Committee has now established a New Series, in which all its volumes will be published: five editions are currently in press or in preparation. The Committee is representative of working scholars in this field of history within Britain, and it aims to be responsive to the interests and requirements of all those concerned with African history. Its present membership is as follows: * David Anderson, L Brenner, P E H Hair (General Editor), Dick Hayward, Murray Last, Robin Law (Chair), Tom McCaskie, Shula Marks, H T Norris and J D Y Peel.

    Scope of the New Series, and guidance on eligible projects. The range of material appropriate for the New Series is as follows:

    Sources may therefore be, as relevant, printed, manuscript, oral or mixed. The series concentrates on sources of the earlier periods. The Committee will consider later sources although not collections of merely colonial or post-colonial administrative material. Editions are published in English, and therefore non-English sources appear in translation. For reasons of expense, the original language texts of non-English sources are not normally included; the Committee will consider their inclusion if they are of special interest for their language and are not available elsewhere. Editions include all necessary scholarly apparatus. Provided that proposed editions meet the above requirements, applications will be considered from scholars of any nationality. In advising on the appropriate length of a volume, the Committee will bear in mind publication costs and the consequent affordability of the edition to those institutions to whom the series and the edition are directed. Indeed, the Academy encourages all editors to consider applying for an outside subsidy towards the cost of publication.

    Procedure for submitting a proposal. If work has not yet begun on the edition, the proposer should send a brief (i.e. not more than one sheet of A4) statement of the proposal to any member of the Committee, or to the Chairman ( , or c/o The British Academy, 20f21 Cornwall Terrace, London, NW1 4QP [NB: from end February 1998: 10 Carlton House Terrace, London, SW1 5AH]. It may be possible to give an immediate response or to invite the applicant to discuss the matter further.11. If the proposer decides to proceed, or if he/she has already begun work on the edition, the Committee will require a fuller statement, giving details of the character and length of the text, the intended treatment, the approximate length of the introduction and of the whole work, what maps and illustrations are envisaged, and a provisional date for completion. This should be accompanied by a sample of the edition, say, one chapter or some 20 pages, containing text and full apparatus. The Committee will ask a referee to report on this and will probably be able to make a decision at its next meeting. (It meets three times a year, normally in January, May and September.) Please submit proposals well before a meeting to allow papers to be circulated and reports prepared.)12. If the Committee approves the proposal it will recommend its adoption by the Academy's Publications Committee, which may be able to offer advice on publication problems, may accept the title as a commitment, and, where appropriate, may issue a contract to the editor. In exceptional circumstances, the Publications Committee may require the final text to be submitted as camera-ready copy, prepared to a given specification. (Note where it has been agreed that the original language text should be included in the edition, the Publications Committee requires that texts in non-Roman scripts should always be submitted as camera-ready copy.)

    The Committee invites suggestions from historians of Africa as to sources which they would like to see available in critical editions. Comments may be made to any member of the Committee, or to the Chairman ( , or c/o The British Academy, 20f21 Cornwall Terrace, London, NW1 4QP [from end Feb.1998: 10 Carlton House Terrace, London, SW1Y 5AH]).


    David Conrad

    1. EPIC ANCESTORS OF THE SUNJATA ERA: ORAL TRADITION FROM THE MANINKA OF GUINEA. A translation project done under the auspices of APAHS. Funding for my portion has come from NEH, the Fulbright Foundation, SUNY-Oswego, and the Bremer Stiftung fur Geschichte. In June 1997 in Guinea we translated a text to be added to the collection in this volume, for a total of seven new variants of the Sunjata epic. Some work remains to be done on difficult passages of transcription on the tape. My assistant in Kankan is working on that, and I expect to submit the volume for publication in 1998.

    2. ALMAMI SAMORI AND LAYE UMARU: 19TH-CENTURY MUSLIM HEROES OF MANDE EPIC TRADITION. This is an APAHS project funded by NEH, Fulbright and SUNY-Oswego, and a companion volume to item 1 above.

    3. SORCERY AND PILGRIMAGE IN WEST AFRICA: SPIRITUAL SOURCES OF POWER IN THE MANDEN. This is an APAHS project funded by NEH, Fulbright and SUNY-Oswego. It includes texts collected and translated in Guinea in 1991, 1992, 1994 and 1996. This material exemplifies what I find for the post-colonial period, which has been driven by reactions to the Sekou Toure years and his intentional repression of traditional culture in Guinea. In a senior thesis from the University of Conakry written during the Toure era, "Le mythe du sorcier dans la societe traditionelle guineenne," the student rejoices at the government's attack on "les sciences mystifiees" and calls for the destruction of the relics and sites where traditional rites of communication with the spirit world were carried out. Nevertheless, a large body of oral evidence indicates that in certain areas of Upper Guinea, a revival of interest in sorcery occurred as a sort of backlash to help protect traditional values against African socialist policies of the 1960s and 1970s. Indeed, sorcery and its role in the indigenous belief system provide a rich vein of information running from the evidence of earliest times tot he modern era. This book explores that subject and presents a collection of translated texts revealing sorcery's role in Mande culture.

    4. SOULAYMAN KANTE'S HISTORY OF SOSO AND MALI: SCHOLARLY WISDOM OF THE MANDEN OF NORTHEAST GUINEA TRANSLATED FROM THE N'KO. The distinguished Muslim scholar Soulayman Kante of Kankan invented a written Mande language called N'Ko that was in use by 1946, and is now the only literate language of thousands of Mande people. He published many books in that language including a half-dozen on the ancient Soninke Empire of Soso and Ancient Mali. The titles of the individual volumes are:Precis de l'histoire de l'Empire Soso, 993-1235; Histoire de Grand Manden; Sonjara 1235-1255; Kurukanfuwa; and Apres Sonjara et Kurukanfuwa. During my Fulbright year in Guinea in 1994 I had these translated from the N'Ko into English. I am presently preparing them for publication, with introduction and annotation. Professor Valentin Vydrine of the European University of St. Petersburg has recently joined me on this project. He is an expert in Mande languages, has produced a Loma/Toma dictionary and is presently working on a dictionary of the Bamana language. He has proposed that we publish the books in both English and Maninka, and I have agreed to this extension of the project, because it will make the end result accessible to many thousands of native speakers literate in printed Maninka/Bamana, but not N'Ko.

    5. GREAT SOGOLON'S HOUSE: DJANKA TASSEY CONDE'S EPIC OF MANDEN. This book will include an extremely long version of the Sunjata epic. The transcript of the narrative recorded in multiple sessions at Fadama in the Kouroussa region of northeastern Guinea now runs to nearly 17,000 lines and contains details of Mande epic ancestors and events that have not heretofore been revealed to the world beyond the Mande culture zone. The translation has been completed and annotations are in progress including information acquired in several follow-up interviews since the original recordings were made.

    David Henige

    The El-Fellati text from Madison appeared in Fall 1997. Jones' edition of the Benini parts of Dapper will be out soon. Larry Yarak's text appeared in HA 1997 and Bruce Mouser's will appear in HA 98. We're closing to finishing Jones on Dapper and another Bamana text (just Bamana by David Conrad and a couple of others; see above).

    Jan Jansen

    I am working on an edition with the preliminary title `L'epopee de Nankoman - Une anthologie sur la fondation de Narena (Mali).' I hope it will be published in the series of the CNWS Research School next year. I am the co-editor (together with Sedou Camara, a historian at the Institut des Sciences Humaines at Bamako). The book will contain about ten texts and a few articles. Most of the texts have been collected by myself in 1996, but have been transcribed and translated by Malian scholars. They will therefore be published as their work. All the texts deal with the deeds of a certain Nankoman a.k.a. Konkoman, the founder of Narena. The texts clearly show the perspectives of the narrators, and therefore the book can be read as an extended case study on the dynamics of Mande oral tradition. Texts have been collected in Narena, allied villages and rival villages. Narena is often referred to as the capital of the Mali empire before Sunjata, but it is remarkable that the people of Narena itself don't refer at all to this discourse on Sunjata, when they construct narrative representations of their past.

    Robin Law

    Robin is now the head of the Fontes Historiae Africanae series, and I hope to append to the newsletter a copy of the revised guide for proposals to Fontes. Note his edition, The English in West Africa 1681-3: the Local Correspondence of the Royal Company of England 1681-1699, Part I (Oxford, for the British Academy, Fontes Historiae Africanae New Series 1; xx, 363pp. #45; ISBN 0-19-726176-0. This is the first volume (of 3-4) of a complete transcription of correspondence among the agents of the Royal African Company of England preserved in the Rawlinson collection (ms C 747, 748, 749) in the Bodleian Library, Oxford, covering the period 1681-99 (with some gaps). Work on the second volume, covering the years 1686-8, is in progress.

    John Lonsdale (Trinity College, Cambridge CB2 1TQ, UK, Phone:+44 (0)1223 338511, Fax: +44 (0)1223 338564). "Who waits to see the whole animal spears only the tail." [East African proverb]

    I want to put together over the next couple of years a book that will introduce the problems of (oral and written) source-use to both undergraduate and first-year graduate students of African history. The book will probably be called "The bones of Waiyaki". I have told the story of Waiyaki and how his life and death (in 1892, in British custody) has been told and retold half-a-dozen times in the past century, as Kikuyu people and British rulers in Kenya sought an appropriate past for their present ventures (as a chapter in David Anderson and Douglas Johnson's collection, Revealing Prophets: prophecy in eastern African history [London & Athens OH, 1995]. It's a fascinating story of the uses and abuses of history -- or, to put it more neutrally, of the construction of history -- which therefore would highlight to students just what it is that academic historians are up against in studying and interpreting the past. I would aim to reproduce up to about 30 sources, some of them very brief, together with all necessary explicatory matter, in a shortish book of perhaps 200 pages. The sources will be British and Kikuyu (but all in English), written and oral, dating from 1893 to the present day (some oral ones yet to be collected).

    The story of Waiyaki was used, successively, to bolster the reputations of rival British army officers in the 1890s, to justify British rule and land alienation, to resist both of these white projects by lawful means between the wars, to debate the issue of violence in the Mau Mau years, to give a precedent for the murder and upside-down burial of one of the Leakey family in 1954, and, more recently, to bolster Wambui Otieno's claim to the right to bury her husband 'SM'.

    The main problem which I think I face is the contradiction between my own temptation to re-tell a good story on the one hand and, on the other, the pedagogical need to set the documents before students with sufficient explicatory matter about author, audience and context to enable them to reach a critical judgment but also sufficiently neutrally to permit them to reach their own independent conclusions and therefore to tell a story potentially very different from my own.

    I would be most grateful for any ideas from list members, and/or perhaps previous books which explicitly tackle this problem. It may be that the only solution is for me to resist the temptation to tell the story my way, but it is a solution I am naturally reluctant to adopt.

    Paul Lovejoy

    The Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada has made a 5-year award to fund a major collaborative research initiative, under the program of that name, on the slave trade of the "Nigerian" hinterland and the development of the African Diaspora. I am the Project Director. The team of 23 scholars from 12 countries includes an executive committee consisting of Lovejoy, David Trotman (York), David Eltis (Queen's), Robin Law (Stirling), Kristin Mann (Emory), and ElisJe Soumonni (UniversitJ Nationale du Benin). The program of research and development includes an archival component, creation of data sets, and thematic concentrations on the ports of the trade, trans-Atlantic linkages, the Islamic factor, and ethnicity/identities. The dissemination of primary source material, including archival documents and oral data, will be a central feature of the project. A secretariat is being established at York University in Toronto to coordinate the activities of the project.

    David Robinson

    I should report that the first volume of the translation of Shaikh Musa Kamara's ethnohistory of the Western Sudan, and particularly of the Senegal River valley, should be out in February 1998. It is the first volume of four. Jean Schmitz is the main editor, and he has coordinated a team of translators, linguists and historians in Senegal, France and the United States. Schmitz et al,Zuhur al-Basatin, ou Histoire des Noirs musulmans, 4 volume translation and commentary of work of a Senegalese scholar, to be published by the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique and the Organisation de la Recherche Scientifique d'Outre-Mer (CNRS and ORSTOM, respectively, Paris). The Arabic "originals" are located at IFAN in Dakar and in the Kamara family library in Ganguel, Department of Matam, Senegal. I will be the lead editor for volume 3. Kamara lived from 1861 to 1945, and wrote this work in approximately 1921-5. See my article, "Historien et anthropologue sJnJgalais: Shaykh Musa Kamara," Cahiers d'Etudes Africaines, 1988.